The Gulf & the EU

The European Union has a region to region relationship with the countries of the Gulf through the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC). The GCC is a regional organization founded in May 1981 by Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. Its members cooperate in areas including the economy, politics, security, energy, industry, agriculture, health, education and culture. Its main objectives are to enhance coordination, integration and inter-connection among its Member States in different spheres. The six GCC nations are all members of the Arab League whilst Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are members of OPEC.

The relationship between the EU and the GCC is governed by a Cooperation Agreement signed in 1988. A Joint Action Programme pdf - 76 KB [76 KB]  was implemented from 2010 to 2013. Both sides are committed to negotiations towards a Free Trade Agreement which were initiated in 1990. The EU has also been committed to sharing its experiences of economic integration, particularly on monetary union, with the GCC which is undergoing a similar process to that of the European Union.

The Delegation in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia represents the European Union in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and to the Secretariat of the GCC and the Delegation in Abu Dhabi represents the European Union in the UAE.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a monarchy whose legal system is based upon Islamic law (sharia law) and the Basic Law of 1992. The country has no written constitution. The King since January 2015 is King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud who has the sole power to legislate by royal decree. The Council of Ministers, which is headed by the King, consists of members of the royal family who have been appointed by the King and is an advisory body to policy formulation which is able to issue resolutions which can be passed into law only by royal decree. The 150-member Majlis al-Shura, a consultative council, was first appointed in August 1993 and does not have legislative power. Political parties are not permitted in the Kingdom.

The Kingdom of Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy whose legal system is based upon the 2002 amended constitution and headed by King Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The country has two legislative bodies: the 40-member Chamber of Deputies elected by universal suffrage and the 40-member royally appointed Shura Council. Political parties are not allowed but political societies were legalised in 2001.

The State of Kuwait is a constitutional emirate headed by the Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jabr al-Sabah. The legal system is based on the constitution of 1962, subject to amendments and suspensions by emiri decree. The 50-member National Assembly is directly elected by universal suffrage and has legislative powers. The Council of Ministers makes up the government and is answerable to the emir and the National Assembly. Political parties are not allowed although there are various political groupings in the National Assembly.

The Sultanate of Oman is a monarchy where the chief of State and government is Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said who has been in power since July 1970. Legislation is in the form of royal decree issued by the Sultan. The Council of Oman is an advisory council made up of the 84-member Majlis al-Shura (Consulatitve Council) elected by universal suffrage and the Majlis al-Dawla (State Council) which is appointed by the Sultan. Political parties are not allowed.

The State of Qatar is a monarchy ruled by the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani who has ruled since 2013. The Advisory Council is appointed by the Emir and is only able to issue advice on policies but has no legislative power. The cabinet is appointed by the Emir and political parties are not allowed.